Essay On Why The Drinking Age Should Not Be Lowered To 18

Lowering the Drinking Age to 18

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There has been an ongoing controversy in the United States on whether the drinking age should be lowered to eighteen like most of the world or if it should stay at twenty-one. Underage drinking has been a major controversial issue for years, yet why is it not under control? Teenagers are continuing to buy alcohol with fake identification cards, drink, get into bars, and drink illegally. As a teen I have proof that these things are going on not only in college but in high school as well. There are a lot of factors that come together to why the drinking age should be lowered to eighteen; the most obvious reason is too many people are drinking before they are twenty-one. Liquor stores, bars, and clubs all want to make money and if they can get away with selling to underage teens then they will. A study done by the Academic Search Premier agrees that, ?By now it is obvious that the law has not succeeded in preventing the under-21 group from drinking? (Michael Smith 1).

There would be a lot of benefits to having the drinking age change to eighteen. The amount of binge drinking would lessen, and the out rage to drink would also decrease. According to Smith, ?Reports of binge drinking come from all types of campuses across the country. In 1992, researchers reported that more college?s students
were drinking to get drunk than their counterparts a decade earlier, and one recent study reported an increase, just since 1994, in the number of students who drink deliberately to get drunk? (Smith 1). I interviewed my friend Shelly Mitchell who recently turned twenty-one and asked her how she felt about finally being legal to drink. She quoted, ?It is not as exciting to drink anymore, I mean I still like to go out with my friends to bars, but the fun is all over, in high school and college it was so exciting trying to get alcohol by using a fake ID.? All of these factors could be changed by lowering the drinking age to eighteen. In a study done by the Harvard School of Public Health, binge drinking is defined as five drinks in a row for boys and four drinks for girls. And when they did a survey they found that 44% of the students attending Harvard binge drink (Jeffrey Kluger 1).

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Drinking alcohol can be a much closed subject in some people?s lives sometimes concerning religion, and others just blatantly breaking the law. In my opinion, improving education on the effects of drinking and having open discussions on alcohol would benefit everyone. The worlds leading anthropologist agrees, ?Dr. Dwight B. Heath of Brown University, recommends: Teach Safe Drinking to your College Bound Teen? (Legal Drinking Age Website). Either parents turn a blind eye to their child drinking, punish them, or understand and do what they can to cope with their child?s drinking. Drinking has the label of being ?bad? and that makes a lot of teens want to do it more. A more sensible approach would be to have open discussions and become more educated rather than being banned. If the drinking age was eighteen, parents would be more understanding and may even offer to help with driving or be more thoughtful when their child calls drunk and can?t drive. I know from experience with friends often times they would insist on driving after they have been drinking, just because they knew they would be punished. It is known that the legal age is twenty one, yet most eighteen year olds feel as if they are already twenty-one when they can go out and buy with their fake ID or drink at a bar. ?Hanson, a sociologist who has studied drinking issues on college campuses extensively, argues that the emphasis should be less on stigmatizing alcohol and rather promoting responsible consumption of alcohol in an effort to minimize harm? (ICAP Reports Website).

In result of not being legal to consume alcohol, teenagers are being forced to be secretive and sometimes make things very dangerous. Parties are not being thrown in houses, but in deserted fields outside of town. I know from experience a fellow class mate of mine threw his graduation party in the mountains where the road to get up to the spot was curvy and steep. The rule was everyone who went had to camp out, but some people always get away with leaving drunk. Smith exclaims, ?The drinking age of twenty-one has driven student partying to less public, and thus more dangerous, venues. To avoid being caught drinking illegally, students frequently party off campus. With less oversight from adults, heavy drinking, brawling, and sexual misconduct are more likely to occur? (Smith 2). The environment in which one drinks in is very important, and being under twenty-one we are forced to do it in secretive places, most people hiding from the police, and or other members of authority. Wisconsin?s Attorney General Jim Doyle speaks from experience with his two sons, ?I would rather have them drinking in a setting where somebody?s checked an ID at an establishment, instead of an unsupervised situation where two hundred kids will crowd into a basement of a house, turn off the lights and drink themselves sick? (Rally Website). This is what is happening all the time, in society today. Kids will find a way to get away with it, but getting caught is not something they want to happen. The first thing that comes to a teenagers mind when their parents go out of town is, ?party at my house.? This is very sad, yet true. In high school people would go around with cups and collect money for the party keg that weekend. Authority officials would see this and the child would just be told to put it away.

The drinking age is arbitrary, why twenty-one and not nineteen or twenty or even twenty-five, why does twenty-one make you more responsible? Michael Smith?s article is titled, ?Treat Students as Adults: Set the Drinking Age at Eighteen, not Twenty-one.? Smith quotes, ?For most other purposes today, we treat eighteen-year-olds as adults. They can vote for the President, fire a rifle for the military, buy and sell real estate, and raise families of their own. It is blatantly inconsistent to forbid them to drink. Many of them view the setting of the drinking age at twenty-one as hypocritical.? According to Smith, ?Small wonder it hasn?t worked? (Smith 2). I happen to agree with Smith and everything he says in that quote, it makes no sense at all to be treated as an adult in some instances and others not. Teenagers are being forced to get alcohol using illegal identification or making someone twenty-one-years or older to get it for them. On a website for the U.S. congress, Rainforth who is running for the U.S. Congress agrees that, ?A person becomes an adult at the age of eighteen according to the government. I believe that all rights of adults should be extended to persons reaching this age. This includes the ability to choose whether or not one wishes to buy and consume alcoholic beverages. Not extending the right is hypocrisy? (Rainforth for U.S. Congress Website). The government trusts us to vote for who rules our county and fight for our country, why can they not treat us like full adults for another three years (Petition Website).

In Europe there is a whole different feel about drinking. As a British citizen I have been brought up with completely different ideas about drinking. It has always been a social aspect of my life until we moved to the states in 1993. Even though I was only eight when I moved here, we go back twice year and I can?t believe how different it is. In England it is legal to go to the pub (bar) with your parents at the age of fifteen and order a drink and eighteen when you are alone. The United Sates is one out of five countries where the drinking age is twenty-one. Egypt, Honduras, Russia, and Samoa all have the drinking age set at twenty-one. Nineteen countries have a minimum drinking age of eighteen and two have a minimum of sixteen, and one which is Japan has the age set at twenty (ICAP Reports Website). This encourages responsible drinking as done with parents in a civilized environment. Fewer stigmas in England are associated with drinking as teenagers are allowed by parents to drink responsibly at home. Interviewing my father, Ian Brownlow, who spent his teenage years in England, looks at drinking more as a social aspect of life, not as a large harmful issue as the United States does. When asking him what he thought about lowering the drinking age he answered, ?Yes, in conjunction with promoting greater education about drinking and higher penalties for DWI offences.? I also asked him how his teenage years differed from ours, because he was legal to drink. He exclaimed, ?The whole reaction to teen drinking was ?normal? and measured. There was no binge drinking and for the most part drinking was done in a responsible manner. It was ?cooler? to smoke because this was not allowed. In America today, the negative reaction to drinking by teens promotes binge drinking or drinking under peer pressure to be cool. If drinking were allowed it would be much easier for a teen to say no.?

When teenagers are motivated to get something they want, most times they will get it. Walking around the cafeteria I eat dinner at each evening I decided to take a poll on my fellow classmates who are also eighteens years of age. I went around to thirty different students asking them how many times a week they drank and how they got their hands on the liquor. Out of the thirty randomly picked students not one student said they didn?t drink and more than half admitted they drink three times a week or more. Also only four out of the thirty said they get their liquor through someone who is truly twenty-one, the other twenty-six either have a fake identification card or one of their friends have one. These results were ones I expected to get. This proves the point that liquor stores are most definitely selling to underage teens. The teens that I talked to are not just having one or two drinks when they go out, they are drinking excessive amounts three times a week or more. In a survey done though the media by Anne Wagner in June of 2001, out of nine hundred nineteen year olds, eighty percent admitted to underage drinking. Another survey was taken over every age category seeing how many people started drinking before they were actually legal. Between ages eighteen to thirty-four there were eighty percent, ages thirty-five to fifty there were sixty-nine percent, ages fifty-one to fifty-nine there were sixty-five percent, ages sixty to sixty-nine there were forty-nine percent, and seventy and older there were thirty-seven percent. That concludes that people have been underage drinking since the 1930?s.

The President at Middlebury College in Vermont expresses, ?The twenty-one year drinking age has not reduced drinking on campuses, it has probably increased it.? John McCardell also explains, ?Society expects us to graduate students who have been educated to drink responsibly. But, society has severely circumscribed our ability to do that? (Petition Website). For some states the drinking age was eighteen, but by 1987, all states had complied to the twenty-one minimum age law (ICAP Reports Website). Despite the fact that many in society would agree that the legal drinking age should be lowered, it is difficult to make it happen because politically no one would be interested in supporting it for fear of losing votes. Should it be a state by state issue or a Federal issue? ?Legislation for the minimum drinking age in the United States varied from state to state just over a decade ago, ranging from eighteen to twenty-one? (ICAP Reports Website). Now it is primarily initiated federally. Around the world noting that both consumption and purchasing laws in most countries are set at eighteen, looking at reports in the United States there is no major legislative movement going in either direction (ICAP Reports Website).

United States Senator George Allen quotes, ?If college [age] kids could just get their act together politically the [drinking age] law would change? (Rally Website). This is possibly true, it might take a few years, but this issue has not come up for a very long time, and when was the last time it was initiated by the college student age bracket. Wisconsin Attorney, General Jim Doyle, also favors lowering the legal drinking age to nineteen if the age was adopted nationally. He argues, ?I wish the federal government, when they are thinking about 0.08, would think about a uniform drinking age of nineteen,? he also continues to say, ?I think this idea that somehow we?re going to keep kids between nineteen and twenty-one from drinking is a myth. We should recognize it?s a myth. We ought to put it up front, and be morally responsible about it? (Rally Website). There are so many people in denial about this issue, it is happening all over every state and most people are turning a blind eye to it, sometimes even people in the police force. I have had a few different experiences with police breaking up a party and most times I was very astonished by the outcome. At one party a cop yelled at some friends and I, ?Go on, just head to the next party, this one is over.? My friends and I were so baffled by this. We are always very responsible and have a designated driver, but the other people that were there were just told to leave that location it. The police officers were not even checking to see if they were capable of driving safely. This happened a lot through out high school and on rare instances you would hear about someone getting a DUI, which is driving under the influence, but those were very rare. It was almost as if police officers did not want to deal with it.

The counter argument to this topic is that the drinking age is better off at twenty-one and should stay at this age. In a study done by Traci Toomey, she explains, ?A higher legal drinking age was correlated with a lower number of alcohol problems among youth? (Toomey 3). Not only does Toomey believe this, but she also goes on to say that, ??the minimum legal drinking age of twenty-one saves the lives of well over 1,000 youth each year? (Toomey 3). These are all things that come to mind when I am supporting the opposite of this, but it is hard to believe that it is true when there is so much underage drinking going on everywhere, and it does not seem to be able to be stopped.

In conclusion, I have found a lot of information to support my side to this controversial issue. I strongly believe that the minimum legal drinking age should be set at eighteen not twenty-one. Underage drinking is going on in every state and is obviously not being controlled. If a person can vote, and even go to war at eighteen, why shouldn?t they be able to go out to dinner and have a class of wine? This issue is primarily initiated federally, but if a few states don?t come together soon and start addressing this huge problem of underage drinking, this problem will continue go on and most like worsen.



Alcohol belongs in the category of psychoactive substances one can legally buy in almost any country, according to certain criteria. Most often, this criteria is age; in the majority of cases, it is set to 21 years. However, in a number of countries, such as Australia, China, and Russia, it is set to 18 (ICAP). In the United states, calls for lowering the drinking age have sounded for a rather long time; considering that alcohol can lead to unpredictable behavior and other negative social consequences, the drinking age should not be lowered.

One of the first associations that come to mind when talking about alcohol is driving. For citizens of the United States, having a car is seen as a must starting from the age when a teenager is allowed to receive a driving license. According to data provided by the organization Mothers Against Drunk Driving, in 2010, a high percentage of car accidents connected to drunk driving (15.1% out of 10.228 individuals) was observed among young people aged between 18-20 years (PolicyMic). Respectively, if youths were officially allowed to consume alcohol from 18 years old, this index of car accidents would necessarily be much higher. Moreover, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration claims that since establishing the drinking age of 21 in 1975, the number of car fatalities among 18-20 year old drivers in the United States decreased by 13% (SFGate).

The medical irresponsibility of allowing teenagers to drink alcohol on a legal basis is also obvious to those who have at least a basic knowledge in biology. Consuming alcohol on a regular basis can negatively affect the development of an individual’s brain’s frontal lobes, which are responsible for emotional regulation, as well as for planning and organization (ProCon.org). Underage individuals who consume alcohol put themselves at more risk of addiction, decreased ability of decision-making, tend to behave less responsibly, and may become violent, depressed, and even prone to suicide.

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The “trickle-down effect,” well-known to sociologists, is another reason against lowering drinking age that should be taken into consideration. This effect implies individuals who already have a right to legally purchase and consume alcohol tend to buy it for their younger peers (ProCon.org); for example, 21-year-old students buy beer or spirits for themselves and for their friends who can be of the age 18-20. In the case of the drinking age being lowered to 18 years, the age of individuals who in fact have access to alcohol will decrease even more, reaching ages of 15-17 or even less. Considering the specifics of adolescence, granting teenagers with a wider access to alcohol can have negative consequences for their health and wellbeing.

Though in a number of countries worldwide the drinking age is 18 years, in the United States, this index is 21, and it should not be lowered. Lowering the drinking age to 18 years old would lead to an increase of car accidents connected to drunk driving; it would also negatively affect youths’ cognitive development, clouding their ability to make decisions and plans, and would make them more vulnerable to addiction and other negative effects; due to the “trickle-down effect” lowering the drinking age would also mean granting access to alcohol to individuals who are younger than 18 years old. It seems this debate in the U.S. will linger on much longer.

References

“Minimum Age Limits Worldwide.” ICAP.org. N.p., n.d. Web. 09 Jan. 2014. <http://www.icap.org/table/minimumagelimitsworldwide>.

“Top 3 Reasons Why the Drinking Age Should Not Be Lowered to 18.” PolicyMic. N.p., n.d. Web. 09 Jan. 2014. <http://www.policymic.com/articles/14574/top-3-reasons-why-the-drinking-age-should-not-be-lowered-to-18>.

“Keep the Drinking Age at 21.” SFGate. N.p., n.d. Web. 09 Jan. 2014. <http://www.sfgate.com/opinion/article/Keep-the-drinking-age-at-21-3271409.php>.

“Should the Drinking Age Be Lowered from 21 to a Younger Age?” ProCon.org. N.p., n.d. Web. 09 Jan. 2014. <http://drinkingage.procon.org/>.

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